Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sand Dunes

More September 6, 2010

After the Zionism workshop, we did some more logistics, and then WENT TO THE SAND DUNES. We rode on a bus up above the kibbutz 300 meters up into the mountains and then drove deep into the desert. The bus pulled over in the very middle of the desert; it looked to us like a stretch of nothing just like all the stretches of nothing we had passed. We actually laughed when David said we were getting off – we thought he was joking because it was absolutely NOWHERE. We got off and hiked into the desert for a moment. Then David stopped us and showed us a row of rocks in the sand, about ankle high, forming a small part of a circle. They are remains from the stone age! That was a super long time ago! Apparently the Arava Valley, where we were, was incredibly populated during the Stone Age because of the incredible availability of flint. It was lying all of the ground we walked on, and apparently in the rest of Israel it is covered with several layers of limestone. Also I learned that there was great debate about whether to mention God or not in the Israeli Declaration of Independence, and they compromised by mentioning the Rock of Ages, which is, fascinatingly enough, flint.

Anyway, after I soaked in the amazingness that I just saw a Stone Age relic just chilling in the desert, not in a museum, but just there on the ground, we started to hike up the mountain. It was about 10 minutes, then we rested almost at the top. The view was incredible. We could see into Egypt, which was crazy. From the kibbutz you can see into Jordan (it’s RIGHT THERE), so it was a three-country day for us. Then we hiked about 2 more minutes, and arrived at THE SAND DUNES.

The dunes are huge, covering a massive territory. And the view from them is incredible. But the most amazing thing about them is how soft the sand is. It literally felt like velvet. I can’t even find the words to describe it. It was the most amazing substance I have ever seen or encountered in my entire life. When I held it up to my face, I couldn’t even see the different colors of rock in it like you usually can. This sand is made of limestone instead of the usual mix of quartz and other rocks, so it is different from any other sand I’ve seen.

We had time to romp, roll, play, run, and do anything we wanted. It was amazing. We even made sand angels. It was windy, so sometimes my eyes hurt, but I didn’t care even a little. Then we all were given two pieces of paper and were told to go into the dunes and find a spot where we couldn’t see anyone else, and we weren’t supposed to make a sound. For fifteen minutes, we were just supposed to sit and think and be.

I’ve never been able to mediate or anything, but this would be the place to do it. I couldn’t get over the fact that this place looks exactly the way it looked thousands of years ago. Probably millions. All you could hear were the same sounds you would have heard in the Stone Age, or before. As far as I could see from my chosen perch, there was absolutely nothing man made – just mountains and dunes. I was sunk in the softest sand, watching the wind whip it around, listening to it whistle around me, and it was deep and profound in a way that makes those words seem empty and meaningless.

I felt very comforted by the idea that this was all unchanged. I thought a lot about time up there; about how time affects the dunes, about how every time I touched the dune I messed it up, but in a few minutes the wind covered up everything I did and made it go away again. I was thinking about my future and I was, for some reason, really comforted that no matter what I do, this desert will be the same. I felt much less anxiety and urgency to figure out my life when I was up there than I ever have, and I’m very much trying to hold on to that feeling. I can’t explain any of it well, but I think it was one of the best places in the entire world.

After our solo pondering time, we all ran down the last dune together, put our shoes on (saddest moment of my LIFE) and then went down to where they had a dinner set up for us. We made our own pitas on a Bedouin cooking stone, which was absolutely delicious. I accidentally ate a lot of it. Good raw too! Then we sat around the campfires for a while until we had to leave.

I’ve always thought of myself as a beach or forest kind of person, but this experience, both on the dune and the whole week at Ketura gave me a real appreciation for the desert. There is something incredibly beautiful in the simplicity and the geology, something that is impossible for me to put into words. I could never live somewhere like that, but it was so amazing. I’m still processing.

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